Six moments in the campaign to phase out Australia's dirtiest power station.
Hazelwood is Australia’s oldest, dirtiest and most dangerous power station. Built in the 1960s, it was scheduled to close down in 2005, but has just kept on polluting.
For over 10 years Environment Victoria has been working with Victorian communities to campaign to replace Hazelwood with clean energy and support the Latrobe Valley in a transition to cleaner jobs. Now a closure date for Hazelwood has been announced for March 2017.
In 2014 the Hazelwood mine caught fire for 45 days, creating the worst air pollution disaster in Victoria’s history. Just a few months after that tragic fire, ANZ bank handed over a loan of US$147 million to Hazelwood.
The loan was due to be renewed in June 2016. In the months before, thousands of Environment Victoria and Market Forces supporters emailed and called ANZ asking for the loan not to be renewed. Customers with accounts and home loans worth $37 million threatened to divest from the bank. ANZ did not renew the loan to Hazelwood.
Hazelwood is mainly owned by French company ENGIE, and ENGIE’s biggest shareholder is the French government. So the French have quite a bit of say in what happens to the power station.
In late 2015, as the world’s attention turned to France for the Paris climate talks, thousands of Victorians signed postcard petitions to the French government about phasing out Hazelwood.
In May 2016, the postcards were handed to the French Climate Minister on TV in a documentary special – a bit like the French version of ABC’s Four Corners.
In response, the Minister announced on air that ENGIE would ‘disengage’ from Hazelwood.
Watch the video below >>
After the Hazelwood mine caught fire in February 2014, it emerged that the parts of the mine that didn’t catch on fire were those areas that had been rehabilitated and covered with clay and soil.
This was the beginning of a two-year campaign to improve rehabilitation of coal mines in Victoria. We sought to answer an important question: what will happen to these huge holes in the ground when open cut mining finishes?
Working closely with Environmental Justice Australia, and thanks to the generous contributions of our supporters, we were able to pull together a legal team for the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry. There we learned the cost of rehabilitation would be much, much greater than the meagre $15 million rehabilitation bond held by the government. The inquiry didn’t make clear recommendations but through community meetings, reports and polling, we helped make mine rehabilitation a big issue in the Latrobe Valley – and a key test for the 2014 state election.
The incoming Andrews government agreed to reopen the Hazelwood Inquiry, and then increased rehabilitation bonds across the three mines by $210 million – with further increases likely in the future. This will make sure coal miners can’t walk away from their environmental and social responsibilities when power stations close. The government also pledged $51 million for health and air pollution monitoring and $40 million in the state budget to support economic transition in the Valley.
In February 2014, the coal mine that supplies Hazelwood power station caught fire and burned out of control for 45 days, covering the homes of over 15,000 people in toxic coal ash for weeks and damaging the health of the local community.
We worked with locals in the Latrobe Valley to ensure national attention to this pollution disaster: generating media coverage and urging an inquiry into the fire; releasing a report by Harvard University researchers about the hidden health costs of Hazelwood; appearing at both inquiries, cross-examining both government regulators and ENGIE executives and ensuring mine rehabilitation was on the agenda; and petitioning the mine owner to pay its firefighting bill to the Country Fire Authority.
On 25 February 2014 Environment Victoria’s CEO Mark Wakeham visited Morwell to meet with concerned residents affected by the Hazelwood coal mine fire.
2010 - 2011
2010 was an election year for Victorian and federal governments and a big year for the campaign to replace Hazelwood.
More than 5000 people rallied in Melbourne calling on the Victorian and federal governments to replace Hazelwood with clean energy. The campaign was reinforced with giant billboards around Melbourne, big news stories, government lobbying and community protests around the state.
By mid-2010, we secured a commitment from the state Brumby government to retire one quarter of the polluting power station. However they lost the election in November 2010 and the new Bailleau government failed to back the commitment.
Together we kept up the pressure, and in 2011 the new Gillard government promised to use funds from the carbon price to retire Hazelwood. Unfortunately they also promised billions in carbon price ‘compensation’ to the power companies. Our analysis, which made the front page of national newspapers, later found that this is what led to closure negotiations with the power station owner ultimately failing.
In May 2005, we released a report that showed Hazelwood is the least efficient power station in Australia, and its pollution intensity is increasing. In July, a report from WWF found Hazelwood was ‘the most polluting of all power stations operating in the world’s major industrialised countries’.
These efforts were part of our campaign to prevent the then Bracks Government from giving Hazelwood access to new coalfields.
If we’re going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to reduce our greenhouse pollution to zero, as fast as we can.
The coal-burning power stations in the Latrobe Valley, including Hazelwood, are responsible for over half the state’s emissions.
We need a plan to shift Victoria from coal to clean, renewable energy.
We also need a plan to help the Latrobe Valley community transition to a prosperous, sustainable economy (see our Life After Coal report on what a just, sustainable transition could look like).
But it’s not just Victoria – the rest of the country needs to phase out coal too. It’s time for a coal free Australia, powered by the wind and sun. Are you with us?
Send a message to Prime Minister Turnbull and Energy Minister Frydenberg asking for a plan to phase out coal and support local communities.
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